A few StU posts back I was asked to belabor the highly touted A’s farm system. With all fairness to the commenter, I was under the impression that the A’s had all their top arms up, and hitters too – let’s be honest they cannot hit water if it was raining out. After much deliberation, James Simmons was the most interesting starting pitcher (they have a guy named Michael Inoa, who I couldn’t find much about, but he is a Cuban signing. Also, Henry Rodriguez is a high velocity arm in the bullpen, but is further away); and Chris Carter was an intriguing prospect. Sure I could have written about Aaron Cunningham or Adrian Cardenas, but that would be cheating and you know it. Enjoy!
A quick reminder how the Cube Ratings work.
James Simmons | SP | Oakland Athletics | DOB: 9/29/86 | 6-3 | 205 lbs | Bats/Throws: Right | A’s #10 ranked prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Control (100) | K-Rating (78) | Efficiency (97)
There is tremendous pitching depth in the A’s farm system, but much of it has reached the majors already this year (Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Josh Outman, and Andrew Bailey) so Simmons is reaching a bit deep for difference makers this year or possibly even next year. However, he is ranked higher than Bailey (#23) or Outman (#12), meaning he has some talent.
Simmons was considered one of the most advanced pitchers in the 2007 draft when he was drafted out of college, but by advanced they meant great control of his fastball and change-up. His breaking pitches are, um, to put it nicely – JUNK! On the bright side, his change-up was voted the best in the system by team management. His fastball sits between 88 to 92 mph, topping out at 94 with a bit of movement and excellent control. Obviously, the change-up is his go-to pitch and he has stellar feel for it too. The breaking pitch of choice (since he hasn’t really developed either curve/slider) is still lacking any consistency. So what kind of numbers has he posted so far:
07 (AA): 6.9 K/9 | 2.43 BB/9 | 29 2/3 IP | .61 HR/9 | .359 BABIP | 3.94/3.44 ERA/FIP | 1.48 WHIP
08 (AA): 7.94 K/9 | 2.12 BB/9 | 136 IP | .73HR/9 | .345 BABIP | 3.51/3.26 ERA/FIP | 1.34 WHIP
09 (AAA): 5.75 K/9 | 3.45 BB/9 | 101 2/3 IP | .71 HR/9 | .326 BABIP | 5.75/4.21 ERA/FIP | 1.51 WHIP
Nothing spectacular. Out of college, the A’s sent him straight to AA, and he only had a brief stint before the season was over. In 2008, he proved that he deserved a promotion to AAA. Not a high strikeout pitcher, he must rely on that nice control he is touted for. However, 2009 has been awful for him. He lost over 2 k/9 and added a walk per nine innings. I am venturing to say that his is a bit over his head. Unless he can pick his K-rate back up and remove a walk from that BB/9 stat, he has little going for him as a major league starter. At best, he looks like a back of the rotation starter who can eat some innings for the A’s.
The A’s rely heavily on their farm, and Simmons is expected to contribute to their future plans. He was drafted earlier (first round) than his talent level by about two rounds. Needless to say, there is still plenty of time for him to rebound back to his AA numbers by the end of this year, or next. He is still only 22 (soon 23!). Keep an eye on him though, the A’s always are able to find useful innings out of their young prospects.
Chris Carter | 1B/DH | Oakland Athletics | DOB: 12/18/86 | 6-4 | 210 lbs | Bats/Throws: Right | A’s #6 ranked prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Power (98) | Speed (15) | Contact (14) | Patience (78)
Other than having an extremely deceitful name (footballer; I am a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan) and the same name as another Red Sox player, this Carter has something that those do not – a jaw dropping power swing! Remember last week when I brought up Mike Stanton, well we have found the second bash brother. He was part of two relatively large trades two years ago – the Carlos Quentin from Arizona to Chicago White Sox, and the Dan Haren from the A’s to the D-Backs (both in the same winter too). Needless to say, he is mighty talented. Just look at what he has accomplished so far:
07 CHW (A): .288/.382/.512 | .224 ISO | .332 BABIP | 459 AB | 24 HR | 24 K% | 12.7 BB%
08 A’s (A+): .259/.361/.569 | .310 ISO | .296 BABIP | 506 AB | 39 HR | 30.8 K% | 13.2 BB%
09 (AA): .305/.407/.515 | .210 ISO | .374 BABIP | 377 AB | 16 HR | 25.5 K% | 14.3 BB%
(He played in 2006, but his stats aren’t quite relevant enough for consideration, and truly just clog up the screen to make it look more complicated.)
Great ISO (that power he displays goes to all fields), nice slash lines, stellar patience, and continuing refinement of his game. The K-rate is a bit scary, but he still reaches base at a nice clip thanks to impressive plate discipline. According to team player development personnel, because of his power swing he is extremely susceptible to breaking pitches, and there is a few large holes in his swing. The “high” batting averages should fall off into the .250 to .260 level as he progresses through he minors (one does not strikeout that often and still hit for a high average, sans a high BABIP). What is nice to see is that he has increased his walk rate with each passing year. Lets hope that continues.
He is more athletic than his body may seem, but he doesn’t have great defense. Let’s just say he is like Ryan Braun or Mat Gamel – he could make a nice soccer player for all the balls he boots. This may be a concern if he was in the National League, but alas, for once a defensively-challenged masher is in the American League. Like I said, he is athletic, but not fast, or known to be a base stealer. However, this year he has 11, which is near his career total. Not sure where this came from, but if he keeps this up it would be a pleasant addition to his already star laden future. He may not be Ryan Howard, but a Carlos Pena may be in the line (a Pena that actually gets a chance before bouncing around for a few years).
Look for Carter to get a call up this year and play an intriguing role in spring training next year. He could do something like Pablo Sandoval did/is doing this year. I would follow Carter as much as Stanton or other big boppers like Justin Smoak (even a Chris “K” Davis).